General Hospital: Night Shift 2 Is a Monty Man’s Dream Come True

Thinking Fans Comment Update August 22: Bonnie likes GH:NS2 much better than “General Mob” … MontyFan is desperately seeking Holly … Chris says even Gloria would be proud … and more. See Comments below. 

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So many readers responded to my two earlier columns on General Hospital: Night Shift 2 that I’ve decided to run another very interesting viewpoint.  It belongs to my longtime friend Ed Martin, who is a television columnist for www.jackmyers.com.

Ed is a charter member the ”Monty Men,” a group I affectionately invented  for my many male soap pals who started watching GH in the  late 70s and 80s as teenagers when the legendary Gloria Monty was the show’s executive producer  All my Monty Men (I have at least 9 or 10 of them)  have watched the show daily ever since, waiting for the show’s magic of that era to remateralize.  They are usually a frustrated, complaining bunch.  But as he reveals here, Ed and his fellow Monty Men may finally be getting what they’ve longed for thirty years later in this summer’s GH:NS2.

                                                        Marlena

                                                        XXXOOO

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GH:NS1

By Ed Martin

It has been a while since I started a column with a sentence I never thought I would write, but here goes: SOAPnet’s General Hospital: Night Shift is one of the most enjoyable original television series of the summer.

A caveat: The low-budget Night Shift may not be everyone’s idea of a sudsy medical drama, especially in the era of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, but damn, it sure delivers the goods. It’s a sexy, spirited, compassionate and totally satisfying soap opera, the likes of which I haven’t seen since the glory days of its once-mighty mother-ship General Hospital way back in the late Seventies and early Eighties.

I hadn’t even seen Night Shift because of my summer travels to the Television Critics Association tour and Comic-Con, and I wasn’t all that interested in devoting time to it in the first place, because the first season of this GH spin-off was one of the most disappointing offerings of 2007. Further, I had been warned that Episode 1 of Season 2 would do little to change my opinion. But I later learned that Episode 2 showed dramatic improvement over the season premiere, so I decided to give it a shot.

While it was true that Episode 1 was about as uninspired as an hour of dramatic storytelling can be (a car crashes into the emergency room, killing the grouchy chief of staff; a young doctor returns to his girlfriend’s apartment after a hard night at the hospital and finds a half-naked hunk in her living room, etc.), I was immediately interested in some of the new young interns and doctors who were introduced during the show – especially alternative medicine practitioner Dr. Saira Batra (Azita Ghanizada); soft-spoken intern Kyle Julian (Adam Grimes) and his arrogant older brother, Dr. Leo Julian (Ethan Rains); and pretty young intern Claire (Carrie Southworth).

By Episodes 2 and 3 they all began to develop into truly interesting characters, especially the Julian brothers. There is much friction between the two, in part because Leo was adopted before their mother gave birth to Kyle, and also because Leo has had trouble accepting the fact that Kyle is gay. Saira, meanwhile, has quickly become one of those wise and loving health care providers that were once a crucial component of GH’s mass appeal (I’m thinking Dr. Lesley Webber, Dr. Gail Baldwin and Nurse Jessie Brewer) and Claire is a sassy fireball who lives largely on junk food, as most overworked hospital staffers do. (That is exactly the kind of real-life detail we no longer see on GH. Back in the day, viewers always saw the characters grabbing coffee and snacks in the hospital cafeteria between their mounting personal and professional crises.)

These are characters I can enjoy or relate to, or both, the likes of which once populated GH, back when it held millions of young viewers in daily thrall. Today, GH is all about temperamental mobsters and self-centered, whorish women, none of whom has much of anything to do with the blasted hospital! Happily, the medical professionals on Night Shift this season appear to be isolated from all that mob-related nonsense. They are characters that are easy to care about, played by actors who are fun to watch. (By the way, Adam Grimes and Carrie Southworth, pictured below, are adorable in SOAPnet.com’s companion series Night Shift: Claire & Kyle.)GH:NS2

There is more to praise. Night Shift spins around the rocky romance of Drs. Patrick Drake and Robin Scorpio, who are expecting a baby in a few months, and it’s a real treat to see two characters of such historical importance to GH be allowed to grow. Robin is a true legacy character who first appeared on GH as the adorable little daughter of super spies Robert Scorpio and Anna Devane; now she is an accomplished medical professional who has been living with and successfully managing HIV for almost 15 years. Patrick is the son of Dr. Noah Drake, the hot doc who was played by rising pop superstar Rick Springfield at the dawn of the Eighties. (Springfield still shows up on GH as Noah from time to time.)

Also, the new Night Shift has brought back two much-missed veteran GH characters – Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) and cop-turned-FBI agent Jagger Cates (Antonio Sabato Jr.) – and given meaty storylines to both. Robert is battling colon cancer and Jagger has a young son with autism. (I wouldn’t call it tension, but there is huge sexual energy in the air whenever Jagger is near Saira, who is treating Jagger’s son. These two will melt plasma if they ever get together.)

Robert’s scenes of denial with an increasingly angered Robin and his show of vulnerability with head nurse Epiphany Johnson (the invaluable Sonya Eddy) have been marvelous. In a great bit of news, Robert’s ex, Anna (Finola Hughes), will join her family for the final three episodes of the season. (Here’s hoping Anthony Geary shows up as Luke Spencer, Robert’s best friend. It would seem entirely out of character for Luke not to support his pal during his hour of need – unless this aspect of the story of played on GH, which exists in the same narrative frame as Night Shift.)I’m also intrigued by the tentative romance between Epiphany and hospital maintenance worker Touissaint Dubois (Billy Dee Williams), two wonderful characters on the other side of young. This is not exactly a primary story on the show, but it is charming nevertheless.

The Night Shift writers clearly have much affection and respect for the history of General Hospital. When a brain tumor caused Robert to hallucinate he thought he was back in one of the character’s gloriously over-the-top Eighties escapades, calling out for former World Security Bureau agent Sean Donnelly and eluding freaky international crime lord Caesar Faison. When Robin and Jagger were reunited (after 15 years in General Hospital time) they reminisced about Jagger’s brother Stone, the young man who fell in love with Robin (and unknowingly infected her with HIV) before succumbing to AIDS. They also talked about Scott Baldwin’s late daughter Karen, the troubled young woman who married Jagger years ago (and who was actually killed by a supernatural being of some kind on the regrettable GH spin-off Port Charles).

The stories of these characters may not be ground-breaking, but they are totally engaging, some in a fun and relaxed way, others on a level of surprising emotional connection. The same holds for the many different patients who move through the hospital in every episode, often touching the lives of the doctors and nurses with whom they interact. For example, tonight’s episode further explores the difficult relationship between brothers Leo and Kyle when they become caught up in a conflict between a young woman seeking to honor the wishes of her dying partner and the partner’s homophobic parents.

I’ll close with another line I’m surprised to find myself writing: Night Shift is such a pleasant surprise that I wish SOAPnet would run it one night a week all year long! It has made Port Charles fun again.

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This column was originally posted on www.jackmyers.com under the headline “General Hospital Night Shift is a Sexy Summer Surprise.”

Comments

  1. MontyFan says:

    I loved your review, Ed. It’s so refreshing to see a show that honors the real history of GH. I, too, loved hearing the names Sean, Luke and Faison. Jagger and Robert both seem to be in character. And I’m going to love when Mac and Anna come to Night Shift. My only question is where is Robert’s current wife, Holly? Is Emma Samms returning too? Will Night Shift acknowledge Holly or pull a “GH” and pretend she never existed?

    Ed Martin says: It might be difficult to bring Holly back on Night Shift, seeing as how the GH writers all but destroyed her character during her brief return two years ago. (She was responsible for unleashing a virus in Port Charles that killed several people, including Tony and Courtney. Also, she shot Luke.) I would love to see Robert’s dear friend Tiffany Hill pay a visit at this critical time. She would be a perfect fit on Night Shift, don’t you think?

  2. Bonnie says:

    Yea! I love GH:Nightshift and also wish they would run it every week all year long. It is 100 times better that “General Mob” — oh sorry, I meant “General Hospital,” which I tape these days so I can FF most of it.

    Ed Martin says: I no longer record GH, because all too often I found myself fast-forwarding through entire episodes. I keep it on when I’m working and keep an eye on it, waiting for those all-too-brief appearances by characters veteran viewers love, all the while hoping that a mobster doesn’t gun them down!

  3. gina d. says:

    I have been watching GH for over thirty eight years now. Night Shift is spectacular. It far outshines GH. This is what true soaps should be, not mob central. If ABC had a brain in their heads they would make Night Shift a continuing, permanent show all year long and not just 13 episodes. The writers from GH ought to take notice of the excellent writing on Night Shift. They could learn a thing or two.

  4. Chris says:

    Hi Ed.

    You’ve taken the words right out of my mouth! As one of Connie’s “Monty Men,” I recently praised “Night Shift 2″ to her — it’s just about the only soap these days that I eagerly look forward to watching every week! The character development has been wonderful, and the references to backstory for Robert/Jagger is greatly appreciated. Dare I say that even Gloria would be proud?

    Great column!

  5. Kate says:

    Watching GH: Night Shift this season has been one of the sweetest breaths of fresh air for me, and quite a pleasant surprise. I gave up less than halfway through the first season, because I couldn’t take further destruction of great characters. I get enough of that during the day on the regular General Mobspital. I fully admit that the only thing that had me tuning into NS 2 was Tristan Rogers’ press statements. After his negative comments regarding what was done to his character (and others) on daytime GH, I knew that if he was praising the head writer of NS, this was something I had to give a fighting chance to.

    I agree with the poster who would like to see Robert’s true love, Holly, return to the GH universe in NS 2, but since I’ve heard that we’ll get some genuine interaction between the Scorpio brothers, and we’ve already gotten some sorely-needed interaction between Robert and his little luv, I just have to say that any added legacy characters would simply be a cherry on the best slice of chocolate cake I’ve had in quite a while.

    Just as an addendum, the return of Jagger Cates was also very welcome and I’m just so very grateful to Tristan Rogers for putting his faith in NS when it was so abused by Jill Farren Phelps and Bob Guza the first time around. It was so great to see someone finding out that Robin was pregnant and actually being HAPPY for her.

    I’m sorry to say this, but unless Anthony Geary agrees to appear on NS 2 (or NS 3), Luke Spencer is a lost cause, as is most of current GH.

    Viva la Scorpios (and Scorpio hangers-on)!

  6. Matthew Cormier says:

    Well said Ed. I grew up watching “GH” in the 1990′s so for me the story of Jagger, Karen, Robin and Stone were among the first that i ever watched and all these years later they remain among my favorites of all-time. I love what is being done at Night Shift and just wish GH was as enjoyable to watch.

  7. Robert says:

    I have been watching GH since 1976…and I stopped watching, as a regular, in 1992 when Robert died. I came back briefly when Luke/Laura did. But stopped watching when the mob followed Luke to Port Chuck…

    I tried to watch again when Robert came back in 2006 but Port Charles had become as bad as Batman’s Gotham City. Over ran by mobsters, a stupid police force (mac scorpio) and depressing lead characters who loved to abuse women verbally…

    GH NS is a Godsend..THIS is very much like GH in the early Monte years. Robert may not be Superman anymore, and I can deal with it. We are all nearly 30 years older and age should show scars…

    Will I watch NS if Robert leaves? Doubtful. And the moment either Sonny or Jason show up I am gone. So, where I do like NS it is only because of Robert. I might stay if he leaves but probably not.

    Rob

  8. NSFan says:

    Thanks for posting your thoughts, I enjoyed them! I’m really hoping that Patrick and Robin get together – for good. Love the new additions to the show as well :)

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